MORE LE­GAL POWER FOR DO­MES­TIC HELP

Agree­ment be­tween the UAE and the Philip­pines turns up the heat on greedy and un­scrupu­lous re­cruiters

The National - News - - NEWS | EMIRATES - HANEEN DAJANI

New rules for the re­cruit­ment of do­mes­tic work­ers will im­prove work­ers’ rights and re­duce abuse, ac­cord­ing to em­bassy of­fi­cials. Com­pa­nies who do not abide by the new rules could be forced to close.

Last week, an agree­ment was signed be­tween the Philip­pine depart­ment of labour and the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion, aim­ing to pro­tect Filipino ex­pa­tri­ates af­ter Manila banned its cit­i­zens from trav­el­ling to the UAE and some other Gulf states for do­mes­tic work.

This was partly a re­sponse to ex­ploita­tion by some re­cruiters and cases where spon­sors abused maids.

In March, the Govern­ment an­nounced that all pri­vate re­cruit­ment agen­cies that hired maids would have to reg­is­ter with Tad­beer – a net­work of re­cruit­ment cen­tres reg­u­lated by the min­istry. Only com­pa­nies that meet Tad­beer’s strict cri­te­ria are ac­cepted.

The Philip­pine con­sul gen­eral, Paul Cortes, said he was op­ti­mistic that the reg­u­la­tions would lead to a drop in the num­ber of abuse cases.

“The agree­ment will make life a lit­tle bit eas­ier for us when we want to pro­tect our na­tion­als,” Mr Cortes said. “Now there is a labour con­tract that they can re­fer to. Of course, that will mean em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees will be more care­ful that they meet the re­quire­ments.

“The agree­ment opens up a more trans­par­ent and a more rules-based ap­proach when it comes to the hir­ing and em­ploy­ment of not just do­mes­tic work­ers, but mi­grants in gen­eral.”

Mr Cortes said em­ploy­ees would be bound to con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions that would give house­hold work­ers an av­enue of re­dress should there be any breach of con­tract.

“The is­sues are now un­der the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion”, rather than the Min­istry of In­te­rior, he said.

Be­fore the new sit­u­a­tion, com­plaints about maids’ treat­ment had to be made di­rectly to the po­lice, which could quickly worsen dis­putes.

Now any dis­putes will be re­viewed pro­fes­sion­ally at labour courts, “so more re­dress, more sys­tem and a bet­ter net­work”, Mr Cortes said.

“At the end, all of these point to the UAE’s ef­forts to en­sure that ev­ery­body who lives and works in the UAE has proper av­enues for re­dress.”

As fam­i­lies strug­gled to find Filip­inas to work as house­maids dur­ing the ban, a black mar­ket emerged, of­fer­ing do­mes­tic work­ers for hire at ex­tor­tion­ate costs.

Five years ago, it cost Dh8,000 to hire a worker – now the fig­ure has climbed to Dh16,000.

Maids would com­monly en­ter the coun­try on tourist visas and then be spon­sored by their new em­ployer.

“The re­moval of the ban will re­move all of the un­eth­i­cal so­lu­tions be­cause eth­i­cal providers like me can re­cruit legally now,” said Jad Bargh­out, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Maids.cc.

Five years ago, it cost Dh8,000 to hire a worker – now the fig­ure has climbed to Dh16,000

Mr Bargh­out said re­mov­ing the ban would cut the cost of re­cruit­ing from the Philip­pines.

Tad­beer in­tro­duced strict rules this year that could lead to dozens of com­pa­nies shut­ting down if they do not meet strict guide­lines to pro­tect the rights of low-paid labour.

Mr Bargh­out’s com­pany has suc­cess­fully reg­is­tered as a Tad­beer cen­tre and will be­gin op­er­at­ing next week. But hun­dreds of other agen­cies were re­jected, he said. That means they will have to shut down and only about 40 got short­listed.”

Tad­beer also ex­pects re­cruit­ment cen­tres to fol­low up on any prob­lems that maids may ex­pe­ri­ence with their em­ploy­ers.

Mr Bargh­out said his com­pany al­ready fol­lowed this model be­cause it spon­sored the maids, so it was al­ways in di­rect con­tact with their em­ploy­ees.

“If they abused them with work­ing hours, de­prived them of their day off, we send a warn­ing,” he said.

“If they do not com­ply, we can­cel the con­tract.”

The do­mes­tic helpers are trained to re­port any mishaps to a hot­line pro­vided by the com­pany.

If they are sex­u­ally ha­rassed, which Mr Bargh­out said could be com­mon, “we train our maids to call the po­lice first and then us, so we can be there”.

He said he hoped that all cen­tres would fol­low this model.

“They told us at Tad­beer that we are re­spon­si­ble for solv­ing the prob­lems.

“It is a chain re­ac­tion. Com­pa­nies should take care of their maids or else they will re­sign.

“So they have to try hard, and the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion is now watch­ing ev­ery­thing, so they need to make sure that the client and work­ers are happy.”

This ap­proach has worked well with their 1,270 maids so far.

“In the past two years, the com­plaints filed by our maids over the fam­i­lies they work for were very low, less than seven or eight, be­cause we solve them straight away,” Mr Bargh­out said.

Amy Leang / The Na­tional

Sup­port­ers of the new leg­is­la­tion say it will mean peace of mind for do­mes­tic staff and strengthen the Govern­ment’s su­per­vi­sion of re­cruit­ment agen­cies

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